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Landfill fire causes closure of Barrow County elementary school, reopen date uncertain

Holsenbeck Elementary School

By Joe Johnson

A landfill fire that has been smoldering for over two weeks in Barrow County has caused a nearby school to shut down due to concerns about air quality.

The fire reportedly began on Nov. 16 at the landfill that's located off Georgia Highway 11 north of Winder and next to Holdenbeck Elementary School.

Personnel from the Barrow County Fire Department and the Georgia Forestry Commission quickly brought the fire under control, but even after being buried under dirt the fire continues to smolder and produce smoke and fumes.

Smoke rises from the landfill next to Holsenbeck Elementary School

The BCFD on Tuesday said that residents could expect "to notice a smoke odor and haze in the area for an extended period of time."

On the day of the fire Holsenbeck opened as planned, but students were kept inside as a cautionary measure.

Later in the day Principal Aperil Sellers informed parents that after she and other school officials met with representatives from the fire department, forestry commission, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, a decision was made to close the school while specialized equipment was used to neutralize and remove smoke odors and particulate matter from the building.

The school then transitioned to virtual learning for students, with a reopening date uncertain.

On Wednesday afternoon Sellers announced that

despite mitigation efforts inside the building school officials were advised by industry and legal professionals to keep the school closed until the results of air quality testing were known and showed that "the air will not be a health concern for students and staff."

The principal said, "Unfortunately, this forces us to make the difficult decision to remain on Digital Learning for the remainder of this semester (through Dec. 20).

"We are offering an in-person option for learning at the Innovation Campus on Austin Road. Our schools there – Austin Road Elementary, Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy and Sims Academy – are graciously making space for our students. The tough piece for us to accommodate is transportation. If you would like your student to attend the Innovation Campus locations, you will need to provide transportation to and from the schools."




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